*This was our very first virtual TGIF in light of the current COVID-19 lockdown. It’s a testament to our TLR family members how we continue to keep connected and do all the things we would usually do together such as cook, exercise, play games, drink, and of course attend TGIF’s together. All in a virtual form!*

Usually, when people see my work their reaction is “Wow! How do you do that!?”. I am an illustrator specialised in Visual Thinking, and I am passionate about helping my clients communicate complex ideas graphically, for example, visual note-taking at conferences. 

I was born in Venezuela and I came to Spain around 5 years ago now. I’ve been working in web design for 20 years and I have always drawn things since I was small.  Since I came to Spain, I started to draw more seriously, and it has developed into a passion of mine. 

I asked the TGIF virtual audience what they thought about drawing and if they can draw. The poll was interesting, the majority of the audience voted “barely” and roughly 50% of people said they don’t draw very well at all. My mission is to change what people say about their drawing skills and persuade the TLR family that they can actually draw, despite what they might think! 

Visual Thinking

Usually, a client comes to me with a really complex idea, things are very messy in their head. When I try to process this into a drawing, very interesting things happen. I drop some things which aren’t too relevant, I have to think about what the most important element is that I want to convey, and I start to organise my thoughts, notice patterns, and group things together, which is what helps me to understand. This is the value of Visual Thinking, it allows us to understand a complex idea through the processes we take in trying to draw and visualize an idea or concept.

It’s a balance

Drawing takes more time and resonates with us on another level. Writing is faster, however, there is a balance as writing gets boring even though you can write very quickly. I personally like to draw key concepts from a book that I am reading, for example below is my Visual Thinking process of a book called Lean In  by Sheryl Sandberg , the chief Operating Officer of Facebook. She talks about how a career is not like a ladder, it’s like a jungle gym (a climbing frame) and there are many ways to get to the top. To me, it’s important to combine images and writing, as it’s not possible to draw everything to convey the meaning effectively. As you can see below, I play with the font and the colours of the text to demonstrate the importance of the different text.

You can draw!

“Whenever we draw, we ask ourselves painful questions.” 

Ralph Ammer

The minute you draw something, you say “This is awful!” and you start to judge yourself. However if you ask a preschooler to draw, generally they love it and it doesn’t matter how good or bad it is! But then you grow up and suddenly you stop because you think “I can’t draw!”, however, you don’t stop speaking. My point is, we don’t do this with language, no matter our level or ability, so why do we do this with drawing?  

Take an architect, or a scientist for example, they all end up drawing on a piece of paper. Drawing doesn’t have to be an art, it’s just like talking! We started drawing before we could write (cave drawings for example). Ultimately, it’s a powerful way to communicate and anyone can do it.

Tim Urban 

He has a Blog called “wait but why”. He basically draws sticks however he’s incredibly successful and brilliant at expressing ideas. It’s not about how you draw, it’s about how well you express yourself through drawing. 

Let’s start drawing… 

At this point in the TGIF I asked the TLR family to draw.

We started with a warm up, almost a mindfulness exercise: “Fill the page with circles”. Get a feel of the paper and pen, go slow at first. Remember to breath and relax your shoulders. This exercise will activate the connection between your eyes and your hand. 

Next we created “squiggle birds”. Take a blank piece of paper and fill it with 5 or 6 squiggles. Now have a look at them. For each one add a beak, a couple of legs and a tail. Now you have your bird! The majority of our processing neurons in our brains are visual, so no matter if you don’t draw perfectly, our minds are very good at filling in the blanks. 

The best thing: we have a big part already solved. So long as you can write, you can draw! We use the same shapes (the basic elements of a drawing), but when we combine them, we have a drawing. Here are some examples of the TLR drawings:

What can you do with Visual Thinking? 

Mindfulness. Usually, you don’t notice the small details of everyday life. The mind protects itself from every detail, essentially from information overload!  If you draw, you pay attention to what you are seeing. We can use it as a tool for personal growth, a visual diary for example. I write a diary and if you write in it monthly, you have an overview of the whole year! You can remember the good things, if you previously thought it was a bad year. Visual Thinking can furthermore be used to take important notes, studying, posters, business concepts, to name but a few.

I did this drawing in Granada with my son. Both of us sat down and started pointing out what elements we noticed about La Alhambra: how many towers it had, how small the windows were, the tourists popping out. He did some of the drawing and shading. He was 10 years old at the time. Try this out next time you visit somewhere!

Our own visual thinking

I believe many people have the desire to change their life, to have a better one, but until you can visualize that better life, it will be hard to achieve. Inspired by Patti Dobrowolski , drawing the life you want, even if you are not an artist, will help you to change your mindset. It helps to go from thinking about your dream life to actualizing your dream life. 

I asked the TLR family to draw a 15-day plan of the things we can’t control for the time we continue to stay at home in this strange lockdown period, as, if we can’t control it, there is no good worrying about it! The TLR family drew their 15-day plan and here are the final visual thinking diagrams below: 

The excited faces of the TLR family on the screen told me that for many of them, that small kid that gladly said YES to drawing a long time ago, was now back. 

I hope that I have convinced you that drawing can help you to understand complex ideas and for people who think they aren’t creative, you can still draw and visualize your ideas effectively. Try it!

About Gabi

Gabi has been a member of the TLR family since February 2020 and is an illustrator, specialized in Visual Thinking. It’s used as a tool for expressing complex ideas, helping you attract your audience, students, employees or customers. She also has more than 15 years of experience in interface design and user experience (UX/UI), working for clients in America and Europe. Check our her Instagram to see some of her work @gabi_gabi_pic.